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Chinese tycoons lead way on info

Publication Date : 21-04-2014


Big data is a relatively new phenomenon in China, but it is already making a big impression, attracting some of the biggest names in Chinese business circles.

Jack Ma, the founder and chief executive of Alibaba Group, which owns China's biggest e-commerce platform, is banking on big data for further business expansion and growth. Alibaba has invested a large amount of money on big data initiatives, including recently buying a further 20.62 per cent stake in Heng Sheng Electronics Technologies Co Ltd for a contract value of 3.3 billion yuan (US$530 million).

As a result of that deal Jack Ma has become the largest shareholder in Heng Sheng Electronics, his cumulative stake in the company now standing at 99.1 per cent.

Industry sources say the deal is the biggest move by a Chinese company regarding big data.

Explaining the acquisition, sources say Heng Sheng Electronics is a major solution provider for banking, financial investment, property, telecommunications and logistics industries. It also provides core systems for many fund management companies, especially modules for transaction, settlement and investment.

However, the main interest for Alibaba is the large volumes of financial data that Heng Sheng has access to. Sources say that while Alibaba had increased its knowledge about people's behaviour through its online marketplace and Alipay, the online payment system, it is still looking for more data about investment and funding.

The acquisition will help Alibaba become a more powerful group, not only in e-commerce but also in financial services and banking industries, the sources say.

Tencent, the largest Internet company in China, recently launched Xin Ge - it means pigeon in Chinese - a big-data application for smart phones.

It can categorize 700 million users of the popular Tencent application QQ according to their gender, spending, interests and location.

It is also a typical example of how big data analysis is proving to be an important tool for marketing experts. The findings enable product developers do their work with specific target groups in mind.

"Big data will create a tailored and competitive e-commerce system for companies," says Zhou Tao, a professor with the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Li Ka-shing, the richest Chinese person, is another of the big entrepreneurs betting big on big data.

In January, the Li Ka Shing Foundation set aside $3 million as a grant to the Stanford University School of Medicine for a new initiative that aims to study vast repositories of biomedical data looking for ways to improve human health and lower healthcare costs. Stanford has teamed up with the University of Oxford for the project.

Industry sources say big data will usher in the next revolution in biomedical science and speed up the development of new drugs, along with better and more personalised, cheaper treatment.

Lloyd Minor, dean of the School of Medicine at Stanford, says that in the world of medicine there are always huge amounts of data floating around. These include electronic patient records, DNA sequencing, biological data on disease mechanisms, clinical trials and pharmaceutical records. "We can put all these large datasets to work to identify innovative approaches to treatment and improve access to care," he says.

Through his foundation, Li has provided more than $37 million to support the medicine school for a wide range of projects, such as fellowship training and equipment.

The project allows the two universities to accelerate discovery from many data bases to provide new insights into diseases and to apply targeted therapies to patients cheaply.

Li, a self-made businessman who manages a multi-faceted business empire through his Hong Kong-based companies Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, says big data will transform biomedical sciences.

"I am very excited that our foundation can help two eminent institutions join and take us to the next level of discovery that will revolutionize patient care and treatment to solve today's health-related challenges," Li says in the foundation's statement.

Miao Kaixiang, chief technology officer with the data center software division of Intel Corp, says big data can enhance the efficiency of data processing in medical imaging, medication and surgery.


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